John Wayne found his nickname and love of acting growing up in Glendale.

Like many boys, young John Wayne had a dog, a big Airedale terrier named Duke. He took Duke everywhere, including the Glendale fire station on the way to school. The firefighters started calling Wayne, whose real name was Marion Morrison, “Little Duke,” since the dog was bigger than the boy. The name stuck, and so did Glendale’s imprint on his youth.

“People see John Wayne as this larger-than-life character, but he was really just this little kid, Duke Morrison from Glendale,” says local historian Michael Morgan. Morgan sits on the Glendale Historic Preservation Commission and has lectured on John Wayne’s legacy in Glendale.

John Wayne was born May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa, but his family soon moved to Palmdale, California, where his druggist father decided to try his hand at ranching, an ill-fated endeavor that failed within two years. During that period, the family would visit Glendale on Sundays, mainly at the urging of Wayne’s mother who preferred the city to Palmdale because of its large population of former Iowans. So in 1915, when Little Duke was 9 years old, his family resettled in Glendale. His father again found work as a pharmacist, while Wayne attended Woodrow Wilson Middle School (formerly called the Third Street Intermediate School when it opened its doors in 1911).

But the Waynes remained transient, moving 10 times around Glendale between 1915 and 1925 because money was tight, according to Morgan. Yet it was also an “optimistic time,” he notes. The city was growing exponentially, creating more opportunities, and Wayne’s father even had his own pharmacy, Baird and Morrison; the younger Wayne would often make deliveries for his dad on his bike. In 1915 there were some 12,000 people in Glendale. By the end of 1920 there were 30,000. Despite the constant uprooting, the popular Wayne always did well in school and avoided trouble.

At Glendale Union High School, Wayne performed well in both academics and sports, particularly football — the latter not surprising, given his 6-foot, 4-inch frame. Wayne was on his high school debate team, served as president of the Latin Society and contributed to the school newspaper’s sports column. The energetic Wayne also served as senior class president and chairperson of the senior dance and he performed in several plays. The youth was so active that he is pictured half a dozen times in his 1925 student yearbook. Yet only one pursuit determined his life’s work. As Wayne’s son Ethan Wayne told the Los Angeles Times in 2014, Glendale High was “where his path in drama really started.” Wayne was also part of the school’s football team when it won the 1924 league championship. On graduating, Wayne applied to the U.S. Naval Academy but wasn’t accepted. So he attended USC, majoring in pre-law and playing on its football team. But a broken collarbone from a bodysurfing mishap changed his course. He lost his athletic scholarship and left USC.

But that’s when Hollywood found him, first as a prop man in films, and then as a stand-in at Fox Film Corporation, before legendary director John Ford cast him in a small but pivotal part in the forgettable 1928 film Mother Machree.

Curiously, hardly anyone knows that John Wayne spent his youth in Glendale. There are no streets named after him, no plaques or memorials, only one building (more on that later). In 2008, when a 21-foot-tall bronze statue of Wayne on a horse needed to be moved from Beverly Hills, Morgan petitioned the Glendale City Council to relocate it in Glendale — but nada. “There was no political will,” Morgan says. Instead, Newport Beach, where Wayne lived as an adult, acquired the nearly six-ton monument. In June 1979 the Orange County Board of Supervisors renamed the Orange County Airport John Wayne Airport, but it wasn’t until 2014 that Glendale’s most famous resident gained even the slightest recognition locally. Glendale High’s 1,559-seat auditorium was crowned the John Wayne Performing Arts Center. “I think it’s really nice,” Ethan Wayne told the L.A. Times. “Dad liked learning, he liked sports, he liked activities.” So, why a veritable void of acknowledgment? “A lot of people have no institutional memory of Glendale,” Morgan tells Arroyo Monthly. He points out the disconnect between an American hero like John Wayne and Glendale’s large Armenian community, which succeeded him. Part of Wayne’s absence was also political. The Vietnam War was a defining issue for a generation and Wayne, a staunch conservative and friend of Ronald Reagan’s, riled many to his left. “Regardless, he’s Mom, Dad and apple pie,” Morgan says of Wayne’s wholesome, independent spirit.

“I’ve always followed my father’s advice,” Wayne once said. “He told me, first, to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. And, third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble.” But trouble did find John Wayne. During the last 15 years of his life, he fought various battles with cancer — he was a smoker — and in 1965 underwent surgery for lung cancer. But it was a form of stomach cancer that stopped the Duke in his tracks. He died from complications in June 1979. Just a month before his death, he made his last public appearance at the 51st Academy Awards ceremony where he handed out the Oscar for Best Picture. The Music Center audience erupted into a standing ovation. “That’s just about the only medicine a fellow would ever need,” Wayne told the crowd.

But love and admiration go only so far; time dissolves memories, the strong become weak. These days, kids at Glendale High School may have to Google John Wayne because they don’t know who he was or why a building has his name on it. Yet the city’s memory of Duke lives on. Says Morgan: “John Wayne embodies all the good things about Glendale.”

From its Pasadena office, China’s Alibaba Pictures is quietly making incursions into Hollywood.

Alibaba Pictures, somewhat hidden in the Pasadena Playhouse Plaza, presents itself with a modesty at odds with Tinseltown’s tendency for hyperbole. In fact, relatively little fanfare accompanied the arrival of this film unit of China’s multinational technology behemoth, Alibaba Group (ranked among the world’s 10 most valuable and successful brands by the brand equity database BrandZ for the first time this year). Alibaba Pictures opened up shop in a 22,000-square-foot office in Pasadena in 2016. 

Since its landing in metro Hollywood, Alibaba Pictures has been working on a handful of deals, investing in a few film productions and distributions, and keeping, at least by in-your-face American standards, a rather low profile. The Pasadena office didn’t respond to interview requests.

But in an interview with Pasadena-based East West Bank, Alibaba Pictures President Wei Zhang describes the client company’s mission here. “We see ourselves as a platform company,” she said. “Our goal in entertainment is not just to make a few movies. We’re not here to create another traditional movie studio…We are a new movie infrastructure company with Internet DNA; we use technology, data and our ecosystem to bring more efficiency and transparency to the filmmaking process.” Zhang describes her goal as growing Alibaba’s role as a gateway between Hollywood and China by developing appropriate content for Chinese movie audiences. And those audiences are expected to grow into the world’s largest, in light of China’s 1.4 billion population. Alibaba Pictures’ parent company has been reshaping the Chinese entertainment industry with an aggressive acquisition strategy since 2014.

Formed in 1999, Alibaba is the brainchild of one of China’s most beloved businessmen — Jack Ma. He’s been called the Steve Jobs of China because of his business savvy, his inspirational leadership and his intimate understanding of the American and Hollywood cultures. An e-commerce company at its core, Alibaba leverages entertainment ventures (film production investments, movie and live events ticketing apps, video-streaming platforms, mobile content browsers and others) to cross-promote interests in a multifaceted business ecosystem.

For example, Alibaba invested in Amblin Partner’s 2017 film A Dog’s Purpose (starring Dennis Quaid and Josh Gad) and helmed marketing the flick in China. Overall, the movie raked in only $64 million in the U.S., but it made $88 million in China with the help of Alibaba’s online movie ticketing app, Tao Piao Piao — in China more than 80 percent of movie tickets are bought online using apps.

From its Pasadena offices, Alibaba continues the Amblin partnership with the sequel, A Dog’s Journey, slated for a May 2019 release. Alibaba’s other successful movie investments include big-budget action flicks such as Dunkirk, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Beyond and Mission Impossible — Fallout.

Earlier this year, Alibaba Pictures announced it was partnering with STX Entertainment on the Robert Zemeckis–produced Steel Soldiers, an original sci-fi action movie set in a futuristic world where humans and androids battle side-by-side. Also this year, Alibaba threw its hat into the ring with other studios (21st Century Fox, Disney, NBCUniversal, etc.) to fund Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streaming video startup, NewTV, which is creating short content for small screens.

For the younger set, Alibaba is producing a full-length adaption of the hit children’s TV series Peppa Pig, based on a beloved series of animated characters that premiered in the U.K. in 2004. (The movie will be a combination of animation and live action.)  It’s scheduled to be released during Chinese New Year 2019, which will usher in the Year of (what else?) the Pig.

So what can we make of this Chinese entertainment company that invests in American big-action films, heartwarming family flicks and charming children’s fare?

“I predict that Alibaba will be a good neighbor and a good company in the Southland, but I don’t think it will be a game-changer for the Southland,” says Tom Nunan, an international cinema expert, lecturer at UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television and partner in Bulls’ Eye Entertainment, a mid-size independent film and television production company.

Nunan remembers the ChinaHollywood lovefest of a few years ago that seized the imagination of producers, financiers and investors, eager to partner up with a new foreign market, foreign talent and foreign money. The hope was that such a move would herald development of a China-L.A. synergy, especially since Northern California — with its emerging technology in software and AI — has had a longstanding relationship with Beijing.

In 2015, leading Chinese investment and entertainment companies, such as Fosun International, LeTV, Dalian Wanda and, of course, Alibaba, were all going Hollywood; Wanda had just bought the AMC Theatre chain, and the STX production company was doing a deal with China’s Huayi Brothers Media Group. “All of us in entertainment had stars in our eyes, thinking, Wow! China’s investment in us will pump up the volume in Hollywood financially, content-wise, across the board,” Nunan continues. “We have all sobered up since then.”

Indeed, part of the sobering reality is that the Chinese government limits and restricts the type of entertainment that can be distributed. China doesn’t have a motion picture rating system; all films must be approved by Chinese censors who officially promote Confucian morality, political stability and social harmony. For all practical purposes, these are PG films — which are the least frequently produced films in Hollywood.

“Think of it this way: The Chinese government is acting the way the FCC acted in the ’70s,” explains Nunan. “They are really, really, really strict about the kind of content they want their citizenry to be exposed to. Also, don’t forget, there is no free Internet in China. Very few countries in the world restrict the freedom to surf the web. That’s not to say you can’t do business with China. There are opportunities, but it can be complicated.”

It addition to content, since 1994 Beijing has been restricting the number of American films that can be shown in Chinese theaters. The quota started at 10, increasing to 34 films per year in 2012 with the proviso that at least 14 be in 3D or IMAX format.

Of course, Hollywood would like to raise that quota, writes Michael Dresden at ChinaLawBlog.com. “But the on-again, off-again U.S.– China trade war has thrown those negotiations for a loop and effectively given China the ability to take whatever position it likes, from slapping a huge tariff on all U.S. films to conceding on all of Hollywood’s deal points,” Dresden writes. “But China is in no hurry to agree to anything. Why should it be? They’re fine with the status quo.”

Still, China’s Alibaba is here in the Southland to be a player, and it’s also a
resource for filmmakers and studios here, contends Nunan. Of course, setting up shop in Pasadena may have surprised many, considering that the prime entertainment hubs are in Burbank, Hollywood or the West Side. Says Nunan: “I think the strategy of the move was to announce that ‘We are a Chinese company. Most of the influential Chinese folk live right here in the Pasadena area and this is where we feel most comfortable.’ It’s wonderful that they are unabashedly embracing the neighborhood. Why shouldn’t Alibaba reward them by locating here? This is where their heartbeat is.” 

Pasadena chefs from around the world share their favorite festive recipes and traditions.

If you’re wondering what to whip up for your holiday get-together — and whether to cook from scratch or bring in precooked food — think about this: Some of the world’s great chefs, writers, philosophers and gourmets have weighed in over the years on the subject of home cooking. All seem to agree that the home-cooked offering has spirit and soul, an undefinable and mysterious essence that somehow transmits satisfaction to those who gather to eat it. And the very act of cooking is an act of giving, they say. Around the globe, in every culture and corner of the world, cooking is the ritual that causes people to gather, bond and enjoy. It doesn’t really matter whether the food is plain or fancy.

“The best meals occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself,” said the late celebrity chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, who also said that “food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.”

So stop pondering and start planning something that will be very simple to prepare but delivers to guests a heartwarming, tasty gift from you — the preparer. Here in Arroyoland we have extraordinary access to foods from around the globe — from the profusion of small ethnic shops selling exotic spices and herbs to huge emporiums that offer gourmet delicacies. And we have an equally diverse and expandng array of dining spots headed by renowned chefs. We spoke to three who hail from different parts of the world to get their take on what holiday entertaining means in their culture, and what they like to serve. Surprisingly, many of them mentioned fish.

MARK PEEL

Prawn Coastal

Renowned American chef Mark Peel is a Pasadena native who has cooked for the one-percenters for much of his life. Starting with Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, he went on to Chez Panisse in Berkeley, then Tour d’Argent and Le Moulin de Mougins in France. Then he cofounded Los Angeles’ La Brea Bakery and the world-class, award-winning restaurant Campanile, where for about 25 years he helped redefine fine dining with an emphasis on farm-to-table fresh food.

Peel opened the seafood-centric Prawn Coastal in Pasadena about a year ago. It’s his concept of fine dining with a casual twist and approachable prices, and everything’s available for takeout. “It’s the biggest part of our business,” he says.

We caught up with Peel by phone while he was collecting his 9-year-old son from gymnastics class, and he was philosophical about holiday entertaining: “In a funny way, I think holiday parties or party eating is often not so much about food as it is about the company. With great people you could be eating cotton candy and tofu and it doesn’t really matter. In fact, it’s great to serve something very easy to prepare, so the host doesn’t have to spend much time and effort doing it.

“One of my favorite things is to get a whole filet of salmon, take the skin off and the pin bones out, and sear it. Then gently braise it in a little bit of vegetable broth. The fish will give the broth its own flavor. This doesn’t take long to do, it really doesn’t take much effort, and it’s a beautiful presentation.”

“What’s also really good is doing something like little soft tacos. Some pulled pork with assorted accompaniments like pickled onions, pickled cabbage and salsa. And some grated cheese, like a really good fontina. And diced tomatoes. One small benefit of global warming is that we get really good tomatoes right up to the end of the year. With something like tacos, the host doesn’t have to continually be cooking. You have the hot pulled pork, the warm steamed tortillas and maybe you butter them a bit, with a little bit of garlic. Just lay it all out and let the guests build their own. They can stand and hold the tacos while they converse.”

Peel says he remembers doing a birthday party years ago for the popular food critic and author Ruth Reichl. “There were all those famous folks and foodies, and I made just these little soft tacos with all the fixings and they were a very big success,” he recalls. “If you take something really simple and do it really, really well, you can’t beat it.”

STURGEON OR SALMON IN A RED WINE SAUCE

This is based on a classic French matelote, a fish stew made with river fish (often eel) and red wine. We’ve done it at the restaurant with sturgeon, salmon and trout. Monkfish also works well. I think of the dish as a winter fish stew, with rich, complex flavors. It’s a convenient dish for entertaining because you can have everything prepared ahead of time, then cook the fish in the red wine sauce at the last moment. Instead of the fish stock, you can use half chicken broth and half water. Fish stock is preferable, but you can buy chicken broth at the store.

Ingredients

¼ pound bacon (about 4 strips), cut crosswise in ¼-inch strips

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ medium onion, sliced crosswise against the grain

Kosher salt

A bouquet garni made with a few sprigs each parsley and thyme, a bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, (halved and green shoots removed) and 1½ teaspoons peppercorns

2 cups red wine, such as pinot noir

2 cups chicken stock or 1 cup canned
         broth and 1 cup water

8 pearl onions, blanched and peeled, or small spring onions (bulbs only)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 ounces wild mushrooms, cut in ½-inch-thick slices or separated into small clumps (depending on the type of mushroom)

Freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds sturgeon, monkfish, salmon or trout fillets

Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Method

1. Combine the bacon with the water in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring from time to time, until the bacon is lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute, then add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the bouquet garni and the wine and bring to a boil, stirring the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze. Add the stock (or broth and water), bring to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. Strain through a medium strainer and set aside

2. Meanwhile, make a small slit with a paring knife in the ends of the pearl or spring onions. Heat the butter in a wide, lidded skillet over medium heat and add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until beginning to color, 3 to 4 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir from time to time and add 1 tablespoon of water if the pan dries out and the vegetables begin to stick. Taste and adjust the salt. When tender, add the strained red wine sauce and simmer 5 minutes.

3. Taste the wine sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Remove from the heat if not serving right away. Shortly before serving, bring the sauce to a simmer. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper and add to the sauce. They should be barely covered with the sauce. Cover and cook gently, being careful not to allow the sauce to boil, until cooked through but not falling apart, about 8 to 10 minutes for sturgeon or monkfish, 5 minutes for salmon, 3 minutes for trout fillets. Taste the sauce again and adjust the seasonings.

4. Remove the fish to a warm platter and spoon on some of the sauce with the onions and mushrooms over and around the fish. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve with boiled potatoes or fresh noodles.

Note: If serving with noodles (I recommend pappardelle or wide egg noodles), mound the cooked noodles on a large platter. Arrange the fish fillets on top of the noodles and spoon on a generous amount of sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Reprinted with permission from New Classic Family Dinners by Mark Peel (Wiley; 2009).

MATHIAS WAKRAT AND JEAN-CHRISTOPHE FEBBRARI

Entre Nous

New on Pasadena’s culinary landscape is Entre Nous, which opened in October. It’s owned by chefs Mathias Wakrat and Jean-Christophe Febbrari. Both were born in small French Riviera towns not far from each other, but they didn’t meet until they came to Eagle Rock, where both worked in the kitchen of Cafe Beaujolais. They became best friends, eventually taking the Beaujolais over as owners, and for 20 years their successful French cafe served up what Gayot.com called “more genuine bistro charm than most of their better known Westside counterparts,” with the kind of “simple, unpretentious fare you’d find at a family-run bistro in Paris.”

We asked Mathias why they decided to open in Pasadena. “My partner, Jean-Christophe, has lived in Pasadena for 20 years with his wife and kids. So our families spent a lot of time there together. We never wanted a second restaurant location, but we always used to look at that particular spot on Green Street, where there was already a restaurant [Ración], and we used to say it would be a perfect place for a bistro like ours. Then it became available and we couldn’t resist. So we sold our shares in Beaujolais and made the move.”

Asked about his holiday food memories growing up in France and his thoughts on holiday cooking, he said, “Where we’re from, on the Riviera, is different from big cities like Paris or L.A. We come from small coastal villages, so everything has to have fish. There was no special holiday dish I remember growing up. We always ate bouillabaisse, even at the holidays. We grew up with that, we love it and we serve it as much as we can at Entre Nous. Of course it’s not exactly the same as in France because we don’t have the rockfish here that we have there. The fish we serve here depends on the daily catch. Whatever is the most fresh and highest quality at the market that day is what we put in our fish stew. We also had sea bass in France growing up. We serve that over lentils at Entre Nous, along with mussels and all sorts of other great regional dishes that are like those where we’re from. We have amazing escargots on the menu that we import directly from the Burgundy region.” Most popular so far in the restaurant’s short tenure, he says, is ribeye steak with peppercorn sauce and fries.

Is there something special he’d recommend for a small casual holiday dinner party? “Anything French,” he says with a chuckle. “You might try serving mussels and homemade French fries with a green salad afterward, which is when the French serve their salads. And perhaps a crème brûlée for dessert.”

Moules Provençales (Mussels)

Proportions are for one order

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced shallots

2 ounces white wine

1 pound mussels

2 ounces heavy cream

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Freshly ground pepper

Sea salt

Method

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large sauté pan on high heat, then add shallots, white wine and mussels. Cover, and when the mussels start opening, add heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, parsley, pepper and a small pinch of sea salt. Cover again. When mussels are all open, remove them to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Reduce the liquid in the pan by one-third, taste for seasoning, pour liquid over mussels and sprinkle generously with more freshly chopped parsley. Enjoy with homemade French fries.

ERWIN TJAHYADI

Bone Kettle

Chef Erwin Tjahyadi of Pasadena’s Bone Kettle restaurant was born in Indonesia and made his mark as a chef here by keeping Asian culinary traditions alive. “Being Asian, you’re always interested in assimilating both cultures, and the holidays are a time when it’s fun to do that,” he says. “In America, the traditional holiday dinner might be turkey or a great ham. To add an Asian touch, it’s all about incorporating spices and herbs that are indigenous to Southeast Asian cooking, although you’re using them on food that is not necessarily available in Southeast Asia. We actually don’t have much ham in Indonesia, for example. It’s a luxury item. But if you add sambal, which is Indonesian chili sauce, to turkey or ham, it’s a great way to introduce Southeast Asian flavor and also put a little heat into your dishes. You can also add sambal to batter or curry or sauces and use it with any meal as a condiment. It’s very versatile.

“At holiday season we love using yellow turmeric rice as a staple with all our savory meat dishes. It’s bright yellow, has a beautiful aroma and is distinctive in taste. And it’s easy to make at home. You can shape it into a beautiful cone, something like a Christmas tree.

“We also love to infuse pandan essence into our desserts and baked goods. Pandan is a leaf that grows in Southeast Asia. It adds a beautiful green flavor that’s unique, naturally sweet, fragrant and delicious — just right for baking at the holidays. For dessert, maybe a jackfruit eggroll served with banana pudding for dipping.”

We’re lucky there are so many Asian groceries nearby where all these things are available, Tjahyadi notes, making it easy for anyone who loves Asian flavors to try adding them to holiday dishes.

TURON (Fried banana rolls)

Ingredients

12 bananas, sliced

2 ripe jackfruit

1½ cups brown sugar

12 pieces spring roll wrapper

2 cups cooking oil

Powdered sugar

Method

1. Pour the brown sugar onto a plate, and roll each banana slice in it, ensuring that it is coated with enough sugar. Place the coated banana in a spring roll wrapper and add about 6 ounces of jackfruit. Fold and lock the spring roll wrapper, using water to seal the edge.

2. In a pan, heat the oil and add leftover brown sugar. When the brown sugar floats, add wrapped banana and fry until the wrapper turns golden brown and the extra sugar sticks to the wrapper. Dust powdered sugar on the banana and serve with banana pudding (see below) for dipping.

BANANA PUDDING

Ingredients

8-ounce package of cream cheese

14-ounce can of condensed milk

1 packet of vanilla pudding mix

1½ cups milk

1½ cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces of whipped cream

2 to 3 bananas, sliced

Method

Place all ingredients in a bowl, mix together and serve cold in individual bowls.

Milk plus alcohol equals tasty holiday cheer

I am not a Christmas crazy. I don’t early observe. There is never anything Christmasy visible on Thanksgiving. The tree goes up late in December, just before the kids come home, and I save the decorating until they can join in. We are the last on the street to put up lights, and I am one of those last-minute shoppers. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the season. But with the kids grown and gone, and a job to work at, the preparation has lost its magic. (Relax. I am not going to complain about my empty nest again this month.)

The only exception I make to pre-Christmas revelry is the immediate tuning of the car radio to the station that plays Christmas music, and the regular purchase of eggnog. The way I see it, drinking eggnog with one’s leftover turkey-cranberry sandwich is totally acceptable. I love it so much.    

The eggnog selection at the grocery store is crazy right now. You can get eggnog to suit whatever stage of lactose participation you are in. And because it is so readily available, it has become a regular item on the December shopping list. Eggnog lets me feel the holiday spirit with very little effort, and without lining the pockets of Starbucks.

The eggnog that you buy in the grocery store is the descendant — or rather, the amalgamation — of several old-timey milk-based beverages. Granted, milk plus alcohol sounds gross on the surface. The combination always reminds me of the time I was served homemade “Bailey’s,”  then had to call in sick the next day. But in the Middle Ages, milk and booze was, as they say, fancy pants. In preindustrial Northern Europe, few people had cows, so moo juice was largely the privilege of wealthy landowners. The best chance to find one of these milky cocktails was after a fox hunt on the estate of Lord Rupert Brimblegoggin-Tricklebank.

The first written version of something similar to eggnog was called posset, documented in 14th-century cookery books as a beverage made from milk, wine and spices that would be curdled and strained. Yes, you are right if you think it sounds like whey that gets you drunk. To that I say, “No, thank you.” Fifteenth-century recipes saw the addition of sugar, cream and sometimes eggs, which sounds a little better. They even had special posset pots for this, which look something like a teapot, but with two handles. If there is a recipe that involves an obscure piece of crockery I can buy, then I am completely on board.

Nog was a 17th-century term for English ale, and wooden drinking cups were called noggins. There are English recipes from that century that mix ale and milk, but it is thought that the term eggnog was coined by American colonists who mixed rum — or grog — with eggs and milk. Egg-n-grog eventually became eggnog, because here in America we never use two names when they can be combined into one. (See “Bennifer”).

These drinks gained popularity in the American colonies, where, though there were few fancy estates, there were plenty of cows. Here, colonists mixed their milk with rum, not ale, because, thanks to the triangle trade, it was cheap and plentiful.

(Stop here for a moment and reflect on the terrible history of slavery before resuming blissful holiday reading.)

Even though I consume store-bought eggnog on the regular, I will, when the occasion arises, happily whip up a batch from scratch the old-fashioned way. Especially when it means I can dust off the punch bowl. I could very easily turn to the Internet for an eggnog recipe. But I am not interested in a lame recipe that involves cooking your eggs into a custard. This is a modern step that was added when people started freaking out about raw eggs. I do not condone such paranoia, as I have only ever gotten salmonella from old fish, and I know that salmonella is more easily contracted from cutting a melon than cracking an egg. Also, I know that agitation (a.k.a. “beating”) denatures protein in the same way that heat does, and therefore whipped eggs are technically cooked.

Also, I live on the edge.

So, instead, I like to thumb through my ridiculous cookbook collection and find something truly ancient. My new favorite eggnog recipe came from the crispy, browning pages of America’s Cook Book, compiled in 1938 by the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune. The eggnog recipe in the cocktail chapter is the same as the recipe from the beverage chapter, but the former’s title was changed from Egg Nog to New Year’s Egg Nog because it sounded mighty boozy. Apparently, the ladies (I’m obviously making a gender assumption here) of the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune wanted you to think they only drank on holidays. The 18th Amendment was repealed in 1933, ladies! Have at it!

Happy holidays!

NEW YEAR’S EGGNOG

Dust off your punch bowl or posset pot and try this for your next holiday gathering. I dare you! This recipe makes 24 1938-style portions, meaning dainty punch cups. If you are using larger cups, plan accordingly. Similarly, if you are just making this for yourself, cut down all ingredients equally across the board.

Ingredients

6 eggs, separated

¾ cup granulated sugar

1½ cups cognac

½ cup rum

4 cups milk

4 cups heavy cream

Freshly grated nutmeg

Method

1. Whip the egg yolks and sugar until very light in color, and about as thick as sour cream (known in the biz as a “ribbon”). Slowly, while still beating, add the cognac and rum, then the milk and cream.   

2. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the yolk mixture. Top each serving with a generous sprinkling of grated nutmeg.   


Leslie Bilderback is a chef and cookbook author, a certified master baker and an art history instructor. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

NASA’s space telescope at Caltech has surpassed all predictions for discovery and longevity.

How are stars born? Where does that happen? What does it look like? What would a map of the Milky Way galaxy look like? Are there many more galaxies in space?

These are a few of the questions that NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which celebrated its 15th year in space this year, has been able to answer with visible imagery that is astonishing. Spitzer’s predicted lifespan was just 2½ years (in a best-case scenario, 5 years) because of the stressful environment of space, where temperatures range from well below freezing to planet surfaces as hot as stars, but it has lasted six times that forecast.

Spitzer is a can-do telescope, surpassing all predictions and then some. “It has been a bonanza and every day is a holiday,” said Michael Werner, project scientist for Spitzer Space Telescope, who has worked on the project for some 40 years. “Spitzer has exceeded all expectations for longevity and also discoveries.”

The raft of Spitzer’s otherworldly discoveries include: a stellar nursery, seven Earth-size planets, Saturn’s largest ring and the farthest and oldest galaxy ever known — all previously inconceivable, even to the astronomers and engineers who created and have maintained the telescope, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Caltech’s Spitzer Science Center. “Our ability to find and observe exoplanets [planets orbiting around a star other than the sun] has been really phenomenal,” added Werner. “We did a deep map to study galaxies almost as far back as the Big Bang. We mapped the Milky Way. We didn’t plan on it doing any of this.”

Spitzer was the fourth and final one of NASA’s so-called Great Observatories to reach space, joining Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. Spitzer has been described as the cornerstone of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins Program. Synthesizing data from various telescopes, which collect light in different wavelengths, helps scientists gain a clearer picture of the universe and wonders of the cosmos.

Spitzer was designed to observe the universe in infrared wavelengths of light, allowing a better view and retrieval of information about objects in space that are extremely far away or blocked by stellar dust. Infrared wavelengths of light are too long to be visible to the human eye and mostly emanate from heat radiation. The telescope’s infrared capabilities equip it to see through dust to detect and read stars and objects that are too faint or distant for optical telescopes, or that are obscured by turbulent clouds of space dust, said Sean Carey, manager of Spitzer Science Center. It is similar to what firefighters use to see through smoke, he added. “Spitzer told us how stars form,” said Carey. “We know they form in very dense infrared-dark clouds, [we] can see how many are forming, the spacing between stars and their sizes telling us how they form. Winds blow away the material they form out of so that you can see inside the stellar nurseries.” What creates the wind, said Carey, is light from massive hot stars, which pushes the material away from the stars after they form.

But Spitzer’s single most important discovery, scientists say, is the study of what is called the Trappist-1 system. Trappist-1 is an ultra-cool dwarf star 40 light years away. Trappist-1 has more Earth-size planets (called “exoplanets”) than any other known planetary system. These seven exoplanets are rocky but potentially habitable and are the most studied planetary system outside of our own solar system because of Spitzer. “Studying planets around other stars was in its infancy when Spitzer launched, but we now often spend more than half the time each year on these studies,” Lisa Storrie-Lombardi, project manager for Spitzer Telescope, said in an email. “The observatory wasn’t designed to do this, but it is really good at it.”

Spitzer accurately detects planets orbiting other stars by measuring the tiny dip in light from the star as the planet passes in front of it, known as “planetary transit.” This is now a commonly used technique to detect the depth and shape of the transit which provides information about the planets around other stars, added Storrie-Lombardi, who has worked on Spitzer for 19 years. Discoveries like these are beyond the scope of what Spitzer was originally designed to do in 2003 when it officially began its mission in space.

Spitzer’s infrared vision has also allowed scientists to study the most distant galaxies in the universe. Light from some of these distant galaxies traveled for 13.4 billion years to reach Earth, according to NASA’s website. Using data from the Spitzer and Hubble telescopes allowed “scientists to see these galaxies as they were less than 400 million years after the birth of the universe,” according to JPL’s website. Spitzer identified many distant galaxy clusters previously unknown. What surprised scientists was the discovery of so-called “big baby” galaxies that were much larger and more mature than early galaxies were believed to be. These big baby galaxies indicated that massive clusters of stars came together very early in the universe’s history, the website notes.

Spitzer has also mapped the entire disk of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. “We initially thought that the Milky Way galaxy disk would just be too bright for Spitzer,” said Storrie-Lombardi. “We figured out how to do it and this program provides one of the most spectacular science legacies of the mission.”

With data gleaned from Spitzer, scientists were able to create one of the most extensive maps of the Milky Way galaxy ever compiled, including the most accurate map of the large bar of stars in the galaxy’s center. There is now a map of the entire 360-degree expanse of the Milky Way available to astronomers and the public. A continually looping view of the entire galaxy moving past can be seen at spitzer.caltech.edu by searching for a video titled “Panning Through the Milky Way.”

Other Spitzer discoveries include the largest known ring around Saturn, a wispy, fine structure 300 times the planet’s diameter, and the first giant gas exoplanet (a hot Jupiter) weather map of temperature variations across its surface, showing the presence of fierce winds.

What the future holds for Spitzer is yet to be determined, but the revolutionary telescope’s space mission continues through November 2019. Thus far, Spitzer has logged 106,000 hours observing space, and thousands of scientists around the world have used Spitzer data in their studies. Spitzer data has been cited in more than 8,000 published papers. For the social media– and virtual reality–obsessed public, NASA has created a selfie app for IOS and Android phones that “dresses” you in a space suit (or you might follow Storrie-Lombardi’s example and use it to snap your pet — Maria the dog is on Facebook floating in the Milky Way; she posted that in August and just made it public). The backgrounds for the selfie app include the Galactic Center, the Cigar Galaxy or Cassiopeia A. There is also an Exoplanet Excursions Virtual Reality Experience for Vive or Oculus devices, found at spitzer.caltech.edu/vr. And to highlight Spitzer’s greatest discovery, Trappist-1, there is a 360-degree video on Youtube titled “NASA’s Exoplanet Excursions 360.”

From the dawn of human history people have been trying to understand what we see when we look up at the night sky, and how we fit into it. “Seeing the incredible response and excitement, worldwide, to the discovery of the Trappist-1 planetary system was one of the most rewarding moments of my professional life,” said Storrie-Lombardi. “There were over 5 billion web hits on stories about it. I think the biggest contribution space astronomy makes is connecting so many people with the wonders of our universe.”

The city is on track to join San Francisco and Boston as one of the country’s major biotech hubs

When Arthur Young, founder and chief executive officer of Pasadena’s InvVax, was researching molecular biology at UCLA in 2010, he became infected with a mission: to create the first vaccine that could completely withstand and ultimately eradicate the constantly mutating and increasingly deadly influenza virus.

Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 650,000 people worldwide died from flu. Moreover, there is a constant and increasing fear of a large and devastating pandemic as we all travel more and more around the globe, facilitating the spread of incurable viruses that would have been geographically contained in the past.

Back in his UCLA lab, Young started with a Herculean task: He took the entire flu virus genome consisting of 13,000 nucleotides — molecules which, when linked together, form the building blocks of DNA — and built a collection of all the virus’ possible mutations. Young was able to single out some small regions of the virus in which mutations would be fatal to its survival. It made sense, he figured, to focus on building a vaccine targeting those regions. The vaccine will ostensibly allow this key region of the virus to kill itself off while actively attacking other regions of the virus. In short: An inoculated individual should be “universally” immune to the flu. InvVax’s novel, patented approach distinguishes itself from the many others working to eradicate the influenza virus.

Fast-forward to 2013: InvVax was up and running out of the Pasadena Biotech Collaborative (PBC) incubator, a shared work/lab space. Human trials for the vaccination are expected to begin in 2020.

“We think what we’re doing could actually better the world in a very tangible, necessary way,” says Young.

InvVax is one of a burgeoning number of early-stage biotech/life-science companies that are choosing Pasadena as their home base. Indeed, over the past decade, the industry has been growing so rapidly here that Pasadena is on track to become a major biotech hub, vying with Boston, San Francisco and San Diego.

BIOTECH BOOM?

For example, in the past two years, the PBC — the area’s first life-sciences incubator — has more than doubled its space to 12,000 square feet while doubling the number of companies it hosts from 18 to 24. Says Robert “Bud” Bishop, PhD, chief executive of PBC, “We deal with early-stage startups with typically two to four people. So when companies come here they’re very high-tech and science-focused and typically aren’t familiar with how to attract startup money by attracting investors or how to obtain small business loans or research grants. We bring in experts in these and other areas to talk to them, mentor them.”

A current PBC company, Panacea Nano — founded by Youssry Botros, PhD, and Nobel Prize–winning chemist Sir Fraser Stoddart, a Northwestern University professor —  recently scored a success in nanotechnology, specifically the use of organic, biodegradable, patented “nano-cubes” which time-release active ingredients in various products. Last December the team launched a commercial anti-aging skincare line that allows for various nutrients — vitamins and moisture-retaining elements — to supply “a fresh, continuous supply of active agents,” Botros told a Chicago-area publication.

Since 2004 PBC has “graduated” 14 successful companies, including Neumedicines, still in Pasadena, and PLC Diagnostics in Thousand Oaks. Says Bishop, “Of course it would be great if all of our startups ended up as successful standalone companies based in the Pasadena area, but many are bought up by larger companies that may be located elsewhere. Still, all this activity makes for a thriving and growing biotech community.”

There are also a number of early-stage biotechs now moving into the next level or the mid-to-late stage of bringing an invention into fruition. Synova Life Sciences, a medical device company working independently out of the Huntington Medical Research Institute (HMRI), is currently bringing to market an automated cell-processing system to harvest a person’s own stem cells from their fat (adipose tissue). That fat can then be reinjected for cosmetic or medical purposes without being rejected. Says John Chi, chief executive, “Synova’s technology is 30 times faster than the current gold standard, harvests twice as many cells and uses no chemicals so it’s safer. We want to help people regenerate their bodies to improve and possibly extend their lives.”

Along with the increasing number of biotech companies, there is unprecedented growth in related businesses. These include new clinical facilities, research settings, other incubators and laboratories. Following in their wake are biotech-focused real estate developers and architectural firms needed to carve out and design more and more square footage to house this biotech boom.

¿POR QUÉ PASADENA?

Short answer: Pasadena is among a few cities boasting a world-class tech-centered university — Caltech — as well as such prominent educational and research institutions as HMRI and The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Add to that a thriving science-skewed population (an astonishing number of Nobel Laureates — 33 at last count — make the city their home).

This gives Pasadena a ready-made community of science-oriented graduates and professionals increasingly looking to stay in the area. Competitive salaries — some say high salaries — particularly in biotech, nanotech and other specialized areas are a big draw. For example, an entry-level or starting scientist job (called “Scientist I”) is in the $150,000+ range in the Pasadena area. Granted, only those with PhDs may apply. But there are also increasing entry-level to middle-range jobs in the $50,000+ range for those with community college certificates and other undergraduate degrees.   Numbers like these attract and ultimately retain talent.

And Caltech continues to grow and attract new investments. Last December the university broke ground for the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research Building, a $200 million, 150,000-square-foot research facility focused on brain function and neuroscience set to open in 2020.

The university also received a $50 million grant from Panda Restaurant Group owners Andrew and Peggy Chern to develop micro and nanoscale medical technologies and devices. And Caltech is collaborating with the Heritage Medical Research Institute, founded by Caltech trustee Dr. Richard Merkin, which recently extended its research partnership with the university. In conjunction with Heritage, Caltech scientists are investigating areas including Parkinson’s Disease, insomnia and autism. “When there’s a geographical cluster including a variety of biosciences organizations, you see cross-pollination as they increasingly work together,” says Lawren Markle, spokesman for the nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), underscoring the thriving scientific nature of the area as a whole.

HMRI is also expanding, having recently completed construction of a $31 million, 35,000-square-foot facility dedicated to basic scientific and clinical patient-focused research. It is involved in several research areas: emerging themes include brain and heart interactions as well as electronic medical implants, particularly micro, less invasive ones.

ACTIVIST AMBASSADORS

“It’s fair to say that a biotech boom, in particular for early-growth-stage companies, is under way in Los Angeles County. Pasadena is sort of the unsung hub,” says Beth Kuchar, president of Innovate Pasadena, a nonprofit group that actively facilitates communication and collaboration between the area’s various medical, tech and biotech firms. Indeed, it’s essential to point out how crucial a role both local government and private organizations continue to play in Pasadena’s biotech/life sciences growth. The Pasadena Economic Development Corporation (EDC) works with nongovernmental economic development organizations such as Innovate Pasadena and the LAEDC to identify and recruit new biotech companies to the area.

They also work to entice established companies to relocate here. The Doheny Eye Center UCLA, a world leader in vision science and research that produces new diagnostic and treatment procedures, is moving from its longtime downtown L.A. headquarters near its former partner, USC, to a renovated space northwest of Old Pasadena. “We like to think of ourselves as the life-science ambassadors for Pasadena,” says Innovate Pasadena’s Kuchar.

Once here, Innovate Pasadena and other like-minded groups seek to facilitate communication and collaboration between the city’s various medical technologies and life-sciences companies. One way they do this: so-called “biotech mixers.” These “macro-sized” mixers — the April event attracted more than 160 networkers — are held fairly regularly in Pasadena. Attendees include everyone from newbie biotech scientists, researchers and company heads to academics and angel and venture investors looking to make connections that can lead to potentially fertile collaborations. “Think of the event as a big petri dish,” says LAEDC’s Markle.

After all, Pasadena could always accommodate a few more Nobel Laureates, especially in burgeoning biotech.

Waste not (Halloween candy), want not

Halloween has come and gone, and I still have a cupboard full of candy. You’d think I would have gauged the trick-or-treat traffic flow of the neighborhood by now (I’ve lived in this spot for 20 years). Our home is on the only uphill section of a very long, very straight and otherwise flat street. Most years we get only one or two costumed hooligans willing to huff-and-puff up a half block for free candy. One year I thought, “Eh, no one will come — we’ll just turn our lights off.” Of course, the doorbell rang for two hours, and I had guilt until Thanksgiving. That year I vowed to always be prepared. 

Another reason I have candy left over is that, although I have an empty nest, I still buy the kids’ favorite candy. It’s not that I think that somehow the presence of said candy will conjure them back home for the day. Rather, it is a test. Somehow, otherworldly spirits are testing me, and if I were to forget the kids’ candy, the spirits would make the kids forget me. 

I realize this is boo-nanas. But my favorite book as a kid was E.L. Konigsburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth, in which the protagonist, Elizabeth, must complete several tasks on her way to becoming a real witch with powers. I view the candy as a task I must complete to realize the full powers of motherhood. I don’t know what those powers are yet, as there are several more tasks to complete over this holiday season. I’ll be in touch.   

Anyway, this is why I have a ton of leftover candy. Again.

When the kids were little, there was no such thing as leftover candy. They ate plenty of it on Halloween night, after a long session of bartering. Once they were in bed, it was time for us to assess the loot and abscond with our favorites. Then, I would tuck a piece in their lunch box every day until it was all gone. Never did I ask, “Whatever shall I do with all this leftover candy?” More likely, the question was, “Who ate that Butterfinger I was saving?”

But things change, and now I find myself researching recipes that utilize leftover candy. The fare is about what you’d think. Mix it into cookies. Mix it into brownies. Mix it into rice crispy bars. Mix it into cheesecake. A lot of mixing, and not a lot of real cooking. I have even come across several suggestions to mix all the candy together for a pie, sandwiched inside a double crust of traditional pie dough and baked into a melty mass of diabetes on a plate. (It has been suggested by members of this family that it doesn’t sound half bad, but I should use a crumb crust and top it with Cool Whip.)

The issue one may have with leftover Halloween-candy recipes is that they are mostly for chocolate candies. It’s the hard, gummy, sour and slimy candies that present the challenge. But I have some tricks up my sleeve.

For hard and gummy candies, my most ingenious idea has been to use them in my sauce making. Anytime your sauce calls for sugar, use some hard candies instead. Add them to the simmering sauce, and stir them in as they dissolve. If they are sour, like Jolly Ranchers, their acidity can really help balance a sauce. I have done this with stir-fry and satay sauces, as well as the classic French gastrique. The other thing I do with hard candies is save them for Christmas to make stained-glass cookies. Use your favorite sugar-cookie dough, cut out shapes, then cut out a center hole in each shape. Lay the window “frames” on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then fill the space with crushed hard candies. As they bake, the candy will melt and create the window “glass.” This looks best with clear hard candies, but I’ve done it with red-and-white peppermints too.  (Although, if you received red-and-white peppermints in your trick-or-treat bag, that’s a legitimate excuse to egg a house. That’s a worse offense than raisins.)

A quick, easy and seemingly decadent use for any and all chocolate candy bars is super-simple microwave mousse. Use equal parts of chocolate candy and heavy cream. Melt the chocolates slowly in the microwave, stirring until liquid and smooth, then cool for 5 minutes while whipping the cream to medium peaks. Pour the warm chocolate into the whipped cream and quickly whip it again until well combined and stiff. Spoon into dishes and chill. You can use this mousse as a pie filling too. (Definitely a crumb crust — possibly made with leftover Oreos.)

Marshmallowy, gummy candies (including those weird candy hamburgers) melt easily into your favorite rice crispy bar recipe and can be zapped soft into Winter-Kitchen Microwave S’mores. I have also used these in conjunction with leftover chocolate bars in my best seven-layer bar recipe. 

This year, though, I’m going to make my favorite cookie, which I affectionately and unimaginatively call The World’s Best Cookie. To be clear, I named it that because I like it — not because everyone else does. It has a subtle crunch that comes from cornflakes and is usually studded with chocolate chips, nuts and coconut. (This evening the part of chocolate chips, nuts and coconut will be played by chopped leftover peanut butter cups, Milky Ways and M&Ms).  I will make these, then ship them off in care packages to the offspring, because I am pretty sure that is part of this mystic test. 

The onslaught of fall is an onslaught of these tests. Everywhere are reminders of my kids, and everywhere are reminders that I have turned into a stereotypical parent of adult children — reminiscing about their youth, telling the same stories over and over, grunting when I get up out of a chair. It comes as a shock every time, though, because in my head I still feel that I’m in my mid-30s, tops. (That damn mirror always ruins everything.) When I was a 30something parent, they were just toddlers, and I was actively counting down until their 18th birthdays, when they would no longer be my problem. (This was due, in no small part, to exhaustion.) Along the way they kinda grew on me. 

So, anyway, I hope you enjoyed yet another column about how I miss my kids. Maybe I should get a dog. (Except, nope. That’s another stereotypical move…forget it.) Anyway, they won’t be home for Thanksgiving either. I will be busy completing November’s mystical test, which has something to do with pine-cone turkey crafts. Luckily, using up leftovers at Thanksgiving is
much easier.
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THE WORLD’S BEST COOKIE: Post-Halloween Edition

Although this recipe advocates the use of leftover Halloween candy, I am not averse to the notion of throwing in a handful of crushed pretzels or potato chips as well. Just keep the combined garnishes down to 3 cups.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick oats, uncooked

2 cups cornflakes

3 cups assorted candies, chopped into    chocolate-chip-sized pieces

METHOD:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with pan spray or parchment paper.

2. Cream together butter and sugars until smooth and lump-free. One at a time, stir in milk, vanilla and eggs. Be sure each addition is well incorporated before the next goes in. Stir in baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix until well integrated. Fold in oats and cornflakes. Stir in candies, then chill the finished dough for 10 to 20 minutes.

3. Scoop onto the prepared pan an inch apart (I use a small ice-cream scoop to get a uniform size). Bake for 10 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Serve with a tall glass of milk.


Leslie Bilderback is a chef and cookbook author, a certified master baker and an art history instructor. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.

Mark Saltzman programs an eclectic array of concerts at Boston Court Pasadena

Many people know Boston Court Pasadena as a terrific place to catch theater — less well known is its lively and ongoing program of music ranging from classical to jazz to experimental. The upcoming winter/spring season promises to be another eclectic and exciting one, programmed by the energetic Mark Saltzman, the arts center’s artistic director of music for the past seven years.

Meeting in the venue’s sunlit lobby one afternoon, Saltzman talks about his background, how he got this dream job and what he has planned for next season. He’s dressed casually in a striped T-shirt, jeans and very spiffy sneakers. His smile is particularly dazzling, and he exudes a charisma that makes you understand why he was so successful as a performer, before becoming an administrator.

Born in Berkeley, Saltzman grew up, as he says, “in the middle of the Mojave Desert” — in Barstow. Even though it might have been remote, “at that time there were a lot of public school music programs. This was back in the ’60s, and they would provide an instrument for you at your school.” In the fourth grade he decided to take up the cello. “I thought the cello was a great instrument,” he says. “It sounds the most like the human voice.” He also studied piano but later, as an undergrad at UC Irvine, he majored in voice partly because he was so impressed with the head of the choral department, Maurice Allard. “He was handsome and erudite, and he had a beautiful baritone voice,” he says. “He was filled with spirit and life.” 

After graduation, Saltzman pursued a professional singing career — he is a tenor — and performed in opera and concert halls throughout the world. He eventually expanded into writing, directing and producing for companies such as the Los Angeles Opera, the Long Beach Opera, CalArts and the American Conference of Cantors. From 1983 to ’86 he lived in Banff, in the Canadian Rockies, where he joined the Music Theatre Studio Ensemble; the company was charged with creating “this new form called ‘music theater,’” which incorporated performance, readings and dance with music. 

After a tour of Europe, he came back to Los Angeles and was perturbed by his daughter’s reaction to his absence. “When she was about 4½ and I came home, I could tell she had a hard time recognizing me. So a job was offered to me to cantor by a synagogue in West Hollywood,” he says. “I was about 40 then, and I thought, it’s about time to settle in.” For 20 years he was the cantor for Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, where he is now cantor emeritus. It was a part-time job, which left him time to do other things, like compose music and write.

Eight years ago, Saltzman wrote a piece that interwove the story of human rights activist Elie Wiesel with the story of Job’s wife, to be presented at a special remembrance of the Holocaust sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. Jessica Kubzansky, Boston Court’s artistic director of theater, was hired to direct. At the time, the venue happened to be launching  a music series and, Kubzansky says, “It became clear that his many talents and skill sets were just what Boston Court needed to bring our music programming to the next level.” She invited him to come by to check out the facilities.

“I went to the concert hall, and I fell in love with it,” Saltzman says. In a few days, he drew up three years of programming, which he presented to their then–executive director, Michael Seel. “That space is really only good for acoustic music,” he told Seel. “We can do some electronics, but we can’t do rock and roll, it doesn’t work for that.” Seel was duly impressed and gave him the job. 

Boston Court has two theaters, and the music programs take place in the wood-paneled Marjorie Branson Performance Space, which seats 80. “This is a very special space, designed for music,” says David Lockington, the musical director of the Pasadena Symphony, who himself will be performing there on March 24, 2019. “It’s well-funded, it’s committed to experimental repertoire and Mark is such a fantastic advocate for the arts on so many levels.”

With his ample contacts and eclectic tastes, Saltzman has been able to bring in a wide array of talent. And as the program’s reputation grew, many artists began contacting him about performing there. The music series emphasizes work by living artists, but he has no trouble programming older work as well.

Lockington first performed at Boston Court last spring and is looking forward to his upcoming appearance. “Cello is my main performing instrument,” he says in a phone interview. “I love playing chamber music, I love playing concertos.” Next spring he’ll
present several of his own pieces, including “The Violet Viola Concerto,” based on a lullaby he wrote for his granddaughter, born early this year (yes, her name is Violet). Instrumentalists will include viola, cello and piano, and perhaps flute and harp — he’s still writing the chamber music version of this concerto. That same weekend he’ll be conducting the Pasadena Symphony in a far older piece, Mahler’s First Symphony, at the Ambassador Auditorium (March 23). 

Boston Court’s upcoming music program continues to reflect Saltzman’s eclectic tastes. It launches on Feb. 14 with Storm Large — better known as the vocalist for the band Pink Martini — and continues with chamber music, duets and quartets, a salute to Scottish composer Thea Musgrave (Feb. 23), the concert version premiere of an opera about designer Alexander McQueen (March 1) and a jazz band led by Josh Nelson (March 8), all culminating in an appearance by the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus (March 31).

The LACC is now under the artistic direction of new arrival Fernando Malvar-Ruiz. “One of the things I’m trying to do with the chorus is to step away from certain stereotypes,” he says. “I’m trying to find other places where choral music can happen.” While he hasn’t finalized his program, he knows he will want to have two or three ensembles.  “I’m thinking of work that combines poetry and music,” he says, “music that represents a diversity of styles, that embraces the breadth of choral music.” (This winter the chorale will also perform Dec. 9 and 16 at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church.)

“I try to do mostly local, I really want to highlight local talent,” says Saltzman. “We are a local institution, and we have great talent here.” 

Boston Court Pasadena is located at 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Visit bostoncourtpasadena.org for the schedule and tickets.

Personal Tech

Just when you thought technology couldn’t make our lives any easier, smart gadgets are getting smarter, more stylish and more powerful. Here are some new tech standouts that can make your life better.

Play Impossible Gameball

What could be more analog than a simple bouncing sphere? As the basis for countless sports, the ball gets a digital upgrade with Play Impossible Gameball, which has embedded sensor-technology that connects to a smartphone app…and that’s where the fun begins. Challenge your buddies to see who can throw the small soccer-like ball the farthest, highest or fastest. Kick it up a notch with digital games that can be played solo or with friends. There’s a virtual version of water-balloon toss and a “keep-away” game that encourages critical thinking along with brute force. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

$99.99, playimpossible.com

Movi Smartphone

Don’t want to watch a movie on your phone? Who can blame you? Movi, an Android smartphone, features an integrated projector that can enlarge 720p images up to more than 16 feet in size diagonally. Nearby walls or ceilings become screens so everyone can share the latest YouTube video, installment of your fave Netflix show or any digital content. The sleek phone’s battery can last up to four hours when the projector is turned on; the projector is launched via an app and switches to landscape mode when you hold your phone horizontally.

$599, moviphones.com

Ovie Smarterware

Leftovers? We always have such high hopes for them, but then time (and mold) sets in. Enter Ovie Smarterware, an easy-to-understand system that tracks how long you have until your food reaches critical spore and ooze level. The Smarterware is a Bluetooth button that is affixed to existing food containers. (You can also purchase Ovie’s bag clips and plastic containers.) Connect with your smart assistant — Alexa, for example — and tell your speaker what’s in the container. Alexa and Google will load the information into the cloud, which has a database of the life span of common foods in the fridge. Ovie, which starts shipping early next year, tracks that food and changes the button colors from green to red, signaling time to reheat or toss.

$95 and up, ovie.life

ZeTime

As the first hybrid smartwatch, the recently upgraded ZeTime combines mechanical hands with a round AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) touchscreen — all crafted with Swiss know-how. Activated for voice recognition, the regular (1.3-inch screen) and petite (1.05-inch screen) models display incoming calls, emails, texts, social media and calendar events. The water-resistant watch can also track your daily activity, sleep patterns and heart rate. If you’ve been a couch potato too long, it gives you a gentle reminder. Compatible with both iOS and Android, ZeTime’s battery typically lasts about four days in either smartwatch and 60 days in analog mode.

$299 and up, mykronoz.com

Kodak Scanza

Baby boomers will have more options for posting pix on Throwback Thursday with this handy device that scans old-school negatives and slides and transforms them into digital form. This film-to-JPEG converter from Kodak quickly digitizes 35mm, 126 and 110 negatives and slides as well as images from Super 8 and 8mm negatives and can transfer them into optimized 14-megapixel or interpolated 22-megapixel files. Images are contained on a simple SD card (not included). You can enhance the quality of the film and adjust the colors and brightness to your liking. You can even scan in gallery mode and display a slideshow as you relive those ancient memories.

$169.99, amazon.com

Cyber Body slimmer

Bringing new meaning to the phrase “shake it off,” the Dr. Fuji Cyber Body Slimmer offers a workout on a self-vibrating platform. Activating many muscle groups at the same time, the fitness machine can produce an effective training session in a mere 10 minutes. And performing exercises on the shaking metal platform can increase blood flow which, in turn, can help users improve balance, strength, flexibility and weight loss. The device runs on 90 watts of power and can vibrate 550 times a minute.

$3,300, cyberbodyslimmer.com

Landroid

It’s a jungle out there, but your lawn doesn’t have to be part of it. The Worx Landroid M is a robotic lawn mower that does the job for you. It tackles your grassy landscaped areas using the power of artificial-intelligence algorithms, sensing and avoiding obstacles and mowing in a best-practices pattern of efficiency, all with minimal noise output. Designed for smaller lawns (less than a quarter of an acre) and customizable for continuous manicure service, the device also “knows” when it’s raining and will return to its docking/charging station. Before you send your unit outside, you’ll need to install perimeter wire that will keep the automated mower contained. If the droid saunters outside the perimeter, you’ll be alerted on your smartphone.

$999, worx.com

Neutrogena Skin360 Skin Scanner

Get ready for your extreme close-up with Neutrogena’s Skin360, which gives you a snapshot of the health and condition of your facial skin. Affix the scanning device — which consists of 12 LED lights, a 30x magnifier and a moisture detector — to the edge of your smartphone camera. Download an app, snap a selfie and then place the scanner on your forehead, chin and cheeks. You’ll see deeply detailed images of pores and wrinkles (“Gasp! Me? What??”) along with a skin-hydration-level score and overall facial analysis that compares your skin to that of other folks your age. Sure, there will be recommendations for Neutrogena products, but you’ll be armed with skin knowledge that can inform your next skin-care purchases.

$50, neutrogena.com

Array Solar Smart Lock

Like the idea of a smart deadbolt, but not the worry about failing batteries that could leave you locked outside of your own home? The Array has your back. This stylish smart lock is powered by an integrated solar panel that continually trickle-charges its onboard battery. The lock should last around 10 months on a charge when it’s in direct sunlight, 30 to 90 days in indirect sunlight. It connects to your overall smart home via Wi-Fi with a wireless router, so there’s no extra tech to buy. You can open it with your smartphone by entering preset codes into its hidden metal keypad (think e-keys) or with a conventional key. The product comes with a second battery and USB charging cradle so there’s always a backup handy. 

$299, acehardware.com

Eveline Smart Ovulation Test

Planning for a bundle of joy? Consider turning your smartphone into a fertility coach. The Eveline Smart Fertility System is an ovulation prediction kit that employs a fertility tracking app with patented technology for near-pinpoint planning. Moms-wanting-to-be use a front-facing smartphone camera and light to measure the color of ovulation test strips; with a 99 percent accuracy rate, results are then recorded in your phone. (The system comes with 10 strips.) Using that data, the system can predict upcoming fertile days with a push notification. Another feature allows you to share your fertile status with your partner — which could mean a candlelight dinner and roses when you return home that evening.

$49.99, amazon

 

A new museum show unveils dozens of previously obscure artists.

As an art conservator, Maurine St. Gaudens has spent over four decades looking at paintings both by the famous and the unknown. For some time she noticed quite remarkable work by women painters she hadn’t known about, some of whom used only an initial for their first name. “They wanted to be genderless, they’d been so discriminated against,” says St. Gaudens in her Pasadena dining room (and now office), the table stacked with books, papers and a model of the Pasadena Museum of History exhibition she is working on. That exhibition is based on the four-volume set of books she started on 10 years ago, Emerging from the Shadows: A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860 – 1960 (Schiffer Publishing; 2015).

St. Gaudens makes clear these women weren’t Sunday painters. “These were professional artists,” women who had had art training, exhibited their work in public, taught art and otherwise “pursued an art career for at least 15 years,” she says emphatically. In 2012 she was joined in her work by Joseph Morsman, a collector specializing in prints and drawings who wanted to help with further research.

“When I came on board, I introduced a number of artists that Maurine wasn’t familiar with,” Morsman says from behind a computer, at the end of the dining table. “Then we went out to supplement the works that we already had, and we were talking with collectors. We’d asked them if they had A, B or C in their collection. They’d say, ‘But do you have E, F, and G in your book?’ We said, ‘Can we see images?’ Then we’d fall in love, and we kept adding.” They tracked down names and backgrounds through newspaper clippings and files at libraries, historical societies and museums — and sometimes even found surviving family members. St. Gaudens’ original list of 100 women artists eventually exploded to 320, and ended up filling four volumes.

In collaboration with Morsman, St. Gaudens has curated an ambitious new exhibition inspired by the books: Something Revealed; California Women Artists Emerge, 1860-1960 runs through March 31, 2019, at the Pasadena Museum of History. It will include some 300 works, reflecting a wide variety of styles and subjects, by 160 artists; most are included in the books, but the show will also include a few artists they’ve discovered since publication. To present more works than the intimate museum can display at any one time, they will change out about 40 percent of the work midway through.

A number of the artists, such as Ruth Asawa, Helen Lundeberg, Ynez Johnston, Agnes Pelton and June Wayne, will be familiar to art aficionados. Many others will be little known, if at all — even if some of their art may be familiar, as in the case of Ada May Sharpless. Sharpless was the sculptor who created the Art Deco–style Lady of the Lake (1934) statue at Echo Park Lake, as well as the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (1933) at the Santa Ana Historical Museum (now the Bowers Museum). 

One of the pair’s proudest finds is Ruth Miller Kempster (1904–1978), whose painting Housewife (circa 1935) graces the cover of Volume 2 and will be a centerpiece in the exhibition. “It’s one of the greatest discoveries of the book,” says Morsman. Housewife is a sublimely painted oil on canvas of a woman in a red dress under a white apron, standing at the sink washing dishes and looking out with tired eyes at the viewer. Already the gaze of the female subject makes it unusual; for centuries women were looked upon, the passive subject of the male gaze, while in this painting the woman looks out actively. In the background is a young daughter returning a cup to the cupboard, and further back, in the dining room, is the husband reading the newspaper after dinner. It is a snapshot of 1930s Middle America after dinner — after the woman has cooked the obligatory evening meal, she has to clean up also (a scenario that persists for many women). Her universe is the kitchen and the home, her day a series of chores from morning to night, while presumably he goes out to work during the day, then gets to enjoy dinner at home and scan the newspaper — keeping him in touch with the world outside.

Born in Chicago, Kempster came to Pasadena with her family. She studied at the Otis Art Institute and later at the Arts Students League in New York City. Around 1925 she attended L’École des Beaux Arts in Paris and later lived in Florence, until she returned home with her parents in 1928. (Sounds like they had to bring her back!) Kempster painted in a spare room and submitted her painting Struggle, depicting a white man and an African-American man wrestling in an arena, in the fine arts competition for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. The judges recognized her accomplishment and awarded her the Silver Medal in Painting. (The painting was recently acquired by the Huntington Library, Arts Collections and Botanical Gardens.)

One of St. Gaudens’ favorite paintings from her own collection was once an unknown. Years ago she obtained a small painting of the Russian River, signed “C. A. Van Epps” in the lower right corner and dated 1902. “It took me two years to track her down,” says Morsman. “Epps was an Illinois artist, she was raised and educated in Illinois, and she didn’t come out here till about 1900, but I couldn’t find information about her in California. I ended up contacting a historian in Illinois. They gave me her early life, and I gave them her later life.” Epps spent the last 40 years of her life in Los Angeles, and the exquisite landscape showing a lazy stretch on the Northern California river will be included in the show.

“One of the problems is that in the time period, most of them married,” says St. Gaudens. “Sometimes they married three, four, five times, so in some cases they had three, four, five names to trace. It was maddening.” A few women even changed their names completely, creating an artist’s persona. One painter in the show is still a puzzle; her work is the large, striking Portrait of Gladys, which was painted by “Paula Zen” and exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art in 1938. It is a large painting of a woman in profile, wearing a tall cylindrical hat and a voluminous coat. In her lap is a book and behind her a building that looks to be made of children’s building blocks — it may all signify something, but what? The painting is labeled on the back with the title and the artist’s name, and the researchers managed to find the exhibition brochure listing the work. However, they know nothing more about Zen and have no other examples of her work.

“Paula Zen is a true mystery,” says Morsman. “We’re hoping someone will say, ‘I have a Paula Zen at home’ or ‘I, too, have been researching this artist.’”

“She’s the only one we can’t find,” St. Gaudens adds, “and she was exhibited in this major exhibition.”

Which just goes to show that work like this is never done. “Part of the purpose of the book is to make people think, and to discover artists they’re intrigued by and to continue the research,” Morsman says. While they cut off the book project at 320 artists, they know there are more, many more woman artists, yet to be rediscovered and commemorated.

“Something Revealed; California Women Artists Emerge, 1860–1960” runs through March 31, 2019, at the Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena. Exhibition hours are noon to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Admission costs $9, $8 for seniors and students; free for members and children under 12. Call (626) 577-1660 or visit pasadenahistory.org.